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Tuesday, August 21, 2001

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Secularism under assault, says Sonia

NEW DELHI, AUG. 20. The Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, today said the country's secularism was under assault and diversity was being used to divide the nation.

``Communalism of all kinds and colours threatens the very fabric of our secular society. Casteism threatens to make a mockery of social justice,'' Ms. Gandhi said at a function organised to honour the intellectual, Ms. Kapila Vatsyayan, with the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award. ``Diversity that has defined us for millenia is now sought to being used to divide us,'' she said, adding ``the very idea of secular India is under assault.''

Recalling that Rajiv Gandhi had worked for ideals of good governance, she said, ``as we look around today, we see how far we have strayed from our ideals of good governance. How accountable are the men and their methods, that claim to control the destiny of one billion people.''

Hailing Rajiv Gandhi's vision and zeal, Ms. Gandhi said his greatest political contribution was to strengthen the democracy at the grassroots level to make democracy more representative, more accountable and more responsive. ``He had launched a crusade to bring India into the 21st century,'' she said, adding he had ``realised that yesterday's solution could not tackle today's problems or build tomorrow's India.''

Mr. Justice A.M. Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India and Chairman of the Advisory Committee of Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award, asked the Government to ensure safety of places of worship and people of all communities and bring to book perpetrators of crime.

Ms. Vatsyayan was given the award, comprising a citation, a shawl and Rs. 2.5 lakhs, for the year 2000 for her outstanding works in the field of preserving and enriching India's multi-faceted cultural heritage.

- PTI

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